I’m a big fan of GOOD – the magazine/blog/community for people who want to “live well and do good.” (What’s not to like about that?) But their most recent contest caught my eye for all the wrong reasons: GOOD’s “Island for Island” project is a contest that encourages their community members to beautify traffic islands, where the best transformation wins a trip to the tropical island of Dominica. In GOOD’s own words, the objective is “to make an unpleasant traffic island in your city less so.” The problem?
You don’t have to actually beautify a traffic island (though that is encouraged!), you can “landscape” in photoshop. Simply send before and after photos in for your chance to win.
From a sponsorship standpoint, the photoshop aspect allows Dominica to engage a much wider audience (assuming it's easier to photoshop than to landscape). But from GOOD's perspective, this presents a major authenticity problem. GOOD is about living well and doing good. The problem isn’t so much that this one little contest might not live up to those standards, it is that GOOD is in effect, saying, “either do something good…or just create a picture of what that would look like.”
Authenticity is the first rule of good PR, the antitheses of “spin” and a friend to all of those organizations actually making a positive impact in the world. Every day, GOOD spotlights people and companies making a real difference – and encouraging others to do the same, but this contest falls considerably short of their mission.
My suggestion for amending the rules: everyone who beautifies a space, with, say, dirt, flowers, trees, etc. gets a shot at the island vacation. Those who photoshop have the chance to win an amazing virtual vacation involving a Webcam tour of the resort and their own image digitally inserted into souvenir photos.